It is a striking example of just how impenetrable the US health care system can be for those who use it. Thousands of Medicare enrollees in Massachusetts and across the country are finding themselves caught in the same perplexing bind: Despite long hospital stays, they have been deemed observation patients or outpatients whose follow-up care is not covered. They also can face higher costs for the hospital stay itself when they are not officially admitted.
These observation patients usually share rooms with regular inpatients and receive care from the same doctors and nurses, making their status invisible to them. “I just assumed he was an inpatient. He was on a medical floor,” Sylvia Engler said.
Hospitals say it’s not their fault. Executives at Beth Israel Deaconess and other institutions say they are just trying to follow Medicare billing rules that even they don’t always fully understand.
Medicare originally intended observation care as a way to give doctors time to evaluate whether a patient should be admitted to the hospital or is stable enough to go home, usually within 24 to 48 hours. But hospitals are increasingly keeping patients in observation status longer: 8 percent of Medicare recipients had observation stays longer than 48 hours in 2011, up from 3 percent in 2006.
Three years ago, Democrats lost their grip on one of Massachusetts’ Senate seats when their candidate, Martha Coakley, imploded.
But it’s quite a different scene for Massachusetts Democrats on Tuesday as Rep. Ed Markey heads into a special election leading political newcomer Gabriel Gomez, a Republican, in the polls by a comfortable margin.
“We’re going into election day with the wind at our back,” Markey press secretary Andrew Zucker told Yahoo News. The Markey campaign claims 15,000 active volunteers and planned to have close to 16,000 door-knocking shifts completed by the end of Monday.
Democrats say their get-out-the-vote campaign dwarfed Gomez’s. They also had more high-profile national and state support and, perhaps most importantly, they say Markey’s message of continuing his record for Massachusetts resonated with voters.
The Massachusetts Democratic Party are set to attack the Republican frontrunner Michael J Sullivan for the Senate seat vacated by Secretary Kerry. They will hold press conferences to highlight Sullivans opposition to same-sex marriage and his opposition to the assault weapons ban.
“We believe that by shining a light on Sullivan, who is widely recognized as the Republican front runner, we can show that the Republican Party is much like the national Republican Party, out of touch, driven by the Tea Party to take extreme positions, and on the wrong side of the issues for Massachusetts,’’ state Democratic Party chairman John W. Walsh said in a statement Tuesday.
But there is another angle to the Democrats’ strategy. By highlighting Sullivan’s socially conservative positions, they hope to energize the GOP primary electorate, propelling Sullivan to victory and thereby ensuring that the Democratic nominee will face the most conservative of the three Republican candidates in the June 25 election.
On Saturday, Congressman Ed Markey was at a packed event in Beverly, Mass., while Congressman Stephen Lynch was out in the central part of the state.
Both men are vying to win the Democratic primary leading up to the special election to fill Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by now Secretary of State John Kerry.
A recent poll by public radio station WBUR showed Markey beating Lynch by just seven points among likely Democratic voters - a closer margin than many might expect, since Markey has been in the Congress since 1975.
Markey has asked for a total of six Debates, but at deal has not been reached at this point.
The teachers union has endorsed Markey, and all agree that unions will be important voting blocks.
“So I think they are going to be important in the primary, they are going to be important in the general and I am going to get my fair share of union support,” said Markey.
Massachusetts has a national reputation as a bastion of gun control, but crimes and injuries related to firearms have risen — sometimes dramatically — since the state passed a comprehensive package of gun laws in 1998.
And strengthened by a permanent state ban on assault weapons signed by then Governor Mitt Romney in 2004.
Murders committed with firearms have increased significantly, aggravated assaults and robberies involving guns have risen, and gunshot injuries are up, according to FBI and state data.
Looks like gun control laws don’t work right?
‘The quality of your gun-licensing laws is only as good as those surrounding you,’ said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminologist.
Makes sense to me, here is the data on out-of-state guns found at crime scenes. Not all weapons used to commit crimes, just those that were recovered by the police.
Many guns found in Massachusetts travel only a short distance: 133 crime guns were traced to New Hampshire in 2011, and 79 to Maine, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Those states alone accounted for nearly one-third of the 669 crime guns traced to states outside of Massachusetts.
New Hampshire and Maine, unlike Massachusetts, do not require a permit or license to buy a gun, although weapons bought at federally licensed gun shops are subjected to a background check.
Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) will not run for Senate in the special election to succeed John Kerry, dramatically increasing the odds that Democrats will hold the seat and setting the stage for Brown to run for governor next year.
It’s a serious, early recruiting failure for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and it makes the already uphill climb to a majority that much steeper for the GOP. They need six seats, and many party strategists privately counted on Massachusetts as one of them.
“With Brown out, the Republican odds just went from excellent to poor in terms of winning the special,” said Rob Gray, a Massachusetts Republican political consultant.
Brown clearly agonized over his decision to stay out of a winnable race.
Gay-rights advocates scored a major and unprecedented victory at the polls yesterday as voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same-sex marriage. In Minnesota they defeated a proposed constitutional amendment, modeled on federal law, that would have banned same-sex marriage in the state.
With that, nine states—Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington—and the District of Columbia—have solidly approved same-sex marriage. Another 12 states permit ‘domestic partnerships’ or ‘civil unions,’ which provide varying degrees of rights. (The laws in New Jersey, California and Oregon give same-sex couples virtually all the state law rights opposite-sex married couples have.)
Republican chances of capturing control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections could be dimming, amid signs that the party’s candidate in the state of Indiana has fallen behind after his incendiary remarks about rape and pregnancy.
Republicans have little margin for error in their quest to win control of the Senate from the Democrats, and controlling the upper chamber will be essential for either President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney to get their agenda through Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives. Republican failure in Indiana, combined with the likely loss of a seat in Maine and quite possibly in Massachusetts, would put the party in a deep hole. Democrats control the Senate by a 53-47, so Republicans need a net pickup of four seats if Obama wins reelection, or three if Romney wins.
If Republicans lose their seats in Indiana, Maine and Massachusetts, they face an uphill battle in gaining control of the Senate. They would have to win all the competitive open seats now in Democratic hands — Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin — plus knock off incumbents in Montana, Ohio and perhaps Pennsylvania. Analysts predict that Democrats will narrowly hold the Senate, while Republicans are expected to keep the House.
Elizabeth Warren is poised to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in next Tuesday’s election, according to a new Suffolk University/7News poll that gives the Democratic challenger a 7-point lead.
The poll of likely Massachusetts voters shows Warren leading Brown 53 percent to 46 percent, with just over 1 percent of voters still undecided.
Warren’s standing in the race has improved from a September Suffolk poll in which she led Brown 48 percent to 44 percent, with 8 percent of voters undecided. The new poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Read more: lowellsun.com
Mitt Romney’s troubles with his “binder full of women” comment isn’t over as Massachusetts women are challenging his version of how he got that binder and his record of hiring top women managers.
In answer to a question from a voter about pay discrepancies between men and women during Tuesday night’s debate, Romney recalled how when he became governor of Massachusetts he sought out top level women.
“I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are all men?” Romney said. “We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.”
“I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women,” Romney added.
He said his administration had the highest number of women in top positions of any governor in the country.